Cochineal Dye: Is it Synthetic?
I am still surprised when, on occasion, a reasonably experienced collector will say something suggesting that cochineal is a synthetic dye. It is not!!
Cochineal is a natural dye.
The brilliant red dye cochineal is produced from the dried bodies of female insects called the shield louse (Dactylopius coccus).
The Dactylopius coccus was originally indigenous to Mexico and Peru.
To make the dye, they were harvested in and around a variety of cactus which were a food source.
Many hundreds of thousands of insects are required to produce a kilogram of the dye.
It was, obviously, an extremely costly and labor intensive process.
Eventually, it was superseded by synthetics.
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